Mexico’s agave plants are often associated with tequila, pulque, and raucous, half-remembered nights. But this genus of spiky flora is also the source of a lesser-known liquor: raicilla. Fruity, smoky, and herbaceous, this beverage is a breed of mezcal found in the western state of Jalisco.
With raicilla’s strong citrusy fragrance, some consider it to be the most aromatic of the mezcal family (i.e., spirits made from the agave plant). As is true for other agave-based booze, the process of making raicilla is not an easy one. First, a wild agave plant must grow for a minimum of eight years. Then, it must be fire-roasted, fermented, distilled once or twice, and diluted with water. After that point, the liquor can be served immediately as raicilla blanco or aged in oak barrels. Raicilla joven has been aged for less than a year, reposado for between one and two years, and añejo for more than two years.
Drinkers enjoy raicilla throughout Jalisco (including the coastal resort town of Puerto Vallarta). But its popularity is spreading beyond its native home, with select bars in New York and Los Angeles pouring out pricey shots. If you’re in Jalisco in December, stop by Mascota for the annual Raicilla Cultural Festival, where you can enjoy live music, dancing, historical tours, and of course, plenty of tastings.
Where to Try It
Pare de SufrirCalle Argentina 66, Americana, Guadalajara, Mexico
This hip bar serves up local raicilla.